Dr. Allison Phelps Explains Ankle Strain and Sprain << Back to News Dr. Allison Phelps, M.D. discusses ankle injuries and the difference between sprains and strains. In some cases, waiting hours or one or two days to see a specialist can be the difference between suffering through agony and moving toward recovery. Any time you suffer from an ankle injury, Dr. Phelps recommends seeking the care of a qualified professional. Then what are the differences between sprains and strains? Put simply, a Sprain is the partial tearing or stretching of a ligament. The concise definition of a Strain is the partial tearing or stretching of a muscle or tendon. Both involve over-stretching or partial tearing, but knowing the difference can help in proper treatment and faster recovery. If you have the misfortune of suffering from an ankle injury due to turning your ankle inward or outward, there are a few steps you can take to figure out if you should rush to a physician immediately, or if you can schedule an appointment. If there is associated swelling or pain when bearing weight, Dr. Phelps recommends seeking the care of a board certified orthopedic doctor. Often times the speed with which care is received is imperative. Other times, however, it really does not make a big difference. Below are three steps to help determine whether or not you should wait to see a specialist Is there any deformity to the ankle? If there is only swelling, it should be okay to wait. If, however, the bone misaligned or damaged, seek medical attention immediately. Is the athlete in unbearable pain? This is probably the hardest metric because pain tolerances vary so widely. If the injured party can comfortably wait until the next day to see a physician, waiting is probably safe. Are they able to bear weight without pain? If there is pain in bearing weight, seek medical attention quickly. The results of these three simple observations should help determine the severity of the injury and the level of necessity for seeking medical help. Hopefully these tips on the differences between sprains and strains are helpful!